Catching Up With Chef Art Smith

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Chef Art Smith has been a delightful fixture in the culinary scene for decades. His influences can be seen throughout the U.S. from his multiple restaurants, television appearances, and nonprofit activities. We first met Chef Art Smith when we lived in Chicago.

We enjoyed his famous fried chicken at one of his restaurants and always enjoyed our conversations at various culinary and charitable events. One thing we know for certain is that when Chef Art Smith is involved, lots of fun and flavor follow.


Who Is Chef Art Smith?

Many people may know Chef Art as Oprah Winfrey’s private chef for a decade. He’s also been in the public eye on television sharing his talents on shows like Top Chef, Iron Chef America, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and many more.


Chef Art Smith


He was named Humanitarian of The Year by the James Beard Foundation in 2007, was inducted into the Chicago Culinary Hall of Fame, and even had a day named after him by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.


Chef Art Restaurants

His restaurants have been serving delicious food to appreciative diners in Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando, and Washington D.C. often infusing his sense of food as a form of community and shared experience that moves people to enjoy more than physical sustenance, but a personal nourishment as well.

Reunion restaurant, his latest addition to the Chicago food scene has become a Navy Pier restaurant that speaks to that dimension. Chef Art presents his delicious versions of favorite down-home classics like fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs, fried catfish, shrimp & grits, and, of course, fried chicken in a friendly, unfussy, and comfortable environment.

Reunion is a sister to his incredibly popular Homecomin’ restaurant at Disney World in Florida, where families go through 60 tons of chicken a year, along with lots of hush puppies, mac and cheese, and delicious Hummingbird cake. They even make their own moonshine!

Chef Art’s restaurants all share that sense of an invitation to a great meal surrounded with love. Sunshine Diner at the Orlando airport, Blue Door Kitchen & Garden, and Art & Soul all offer diners a chance to experience Chef Art’s delightful food in a comfortable and welcoming environment.

Common Threads

One of our favorite Chef Art projects is his creation of the nonprofit organization Common Threads. Founded in 2003, Common Threads teaches children from diverse cultural backgrounds about nutrition and physical well-being.

They learn how to cook wholesome and affordable meals while also celebrating cultural diversity and learning about similarities while enjoying the fun and comfort of doing things in the kitchen.

Chef Art Smith Is A Cultural Diplomat

Since we’ve been noticing his several visits to Portugal, we thought we’d find out what’s been going on. We had the chance to catch up with Chef Art Smith via Zoom and see what else he has on the horizon. Turns out (as we should have expected) a whole lot!

Chef Art Smith is now a cultural diplomat. He uses his culinary expertise to spread happiness through the taste buds increasingly around the world. His friend, Randi Levine, the U.S. Ambassador to Portugal has invited him several times to participate in special events, hosted celebrations, and more.

We saw him hustling around Arrail Lisboa Pride, cooking up a storm for hungry festa goers. We know that his fried chicken is bound to be a hit anywhere in the world. So when he talked to us about future endeavors, it was no surprise to hear him mention countries in Latin America and other parts of the world as possible future outlets for his southern hospitality and delicious recipes.


US Ambassador Randi Levine with Chef Art Smith in Lisbon
US Ambassador Randi Levine with Chef Art Smith at Lisboa Pride.


We love the idea of food and drink as a tool for communication too. You may not know that we wrote a chapter in the World Food Travel Association handbook, Have Fork Will Travel, about that very idea. Like Chef Art, we believe that food builds community and that the common threads we can find through sitting down together to break bread are always worth exploring.

Health And Wellness

Chef Art Smith has, like many of us, also worked on his health. He’s looking fit and fabulous, which is important when keeping up with his growing children and artist husband Jesus Salguiero. Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes back in 2008, Chef Art took the information as a wake-up call and, through ups and downs, has made health a priority. He’s also made some of his delicious but indulgent recipes available in trimmer form so those of us who need to be more alert can enjoy the flavor of his amazing southern delights without guilt.

Here’s one of our favorite health-conscious recipes from the mind and kitchen of Chef Art Smith.

Chef Art Smith's Unfried Chicken Recipe

Servings 4


  • 1 cup buttermilkor non-fat Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 tbsp Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • 4 skinless,boneless chicken breasts, cut in half
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat or multigrain panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp gratedparmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper ground cayenne or red pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp each of onion powder and garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 lemon quartered for garnish (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • In a large bowl, mix the buttermilk or yogurt and hot sauce. Submerge the chicken pieces in the mixture and let soak in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour  (up to 24 hours).
  • In a large, zip-close plastic bag, add the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, black pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika. Seal the bag and shake until all the ingredients are well-blended.
  • Remove the chicken breasts from the liquid and transfer the pieces directly to the bag with the breadcrumb mixture. Shake the bag until the chicken breasts are evenly coated with the breadcrumbs.
  • Use a nonstick baking sheet or spray lightly with nonstick spray.
  • Take the chicken pieces from the bag and lay them on a nonstick baking sheet or lightly coat the sheet with nonstick spray. Refrigerate, uncovered for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and bake for 25- 30 minutes or until cooked through.


Serve garnished with the lemon quarters.
Pro Tip:
Spray the tops of the pieces with nonstick spray for a crispy crust. Flip the chicken pieces halfway through cooking to crisp both sides.
Course: Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Baked Chicken, Fried Chicken

Chef Art’s Unfried Chicken goes great with our Crispy Sweet Potato Fries, which are also baked, not fried. Maybe we should call them Unfried Sweet Potato Fries instead!

Let us know what you think about these recipes and please give us any of your tips for healthier delicious eating.

Co-founder of Food Travelist. I love to cook for family and friends. Share your best recipes with me.

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